Words to Live By

Whenever two or more people are working together or talking to each other, whatever happens has been crafted by all involved.  As simple as it sounds, it is a radical departure from how most of us understand our human process.   

Every habit – whether good or bad – was used to initially solve a problem.  Most of our habits continue to be useful.  Some, however, become no longer productive, but we continue to use them anyway.  For example, many of us are taught to be respectful, more specifically, to not interrupt when others are talking.  But if you always wait for a break in the conversation to speak, it might never happen.  As a result you might not express good thoughts or creative solutions that could help solve a problem.  If you don't know how to speak up, how will people know what you know?

Awareness leads to change.  When something becomes a habit, we are no longer aware of what we are doing.  For example, most of us are not aware of how we brush our teeth, drive our car, eat our soup, or talk to each other.  When we become aware, we notice.  Only when we notice do we have a choice between making a change, or doing it as we always have.

We all carry the past forever within us.  The future, including our hopes, wishes, plans, fantasies, and daydreams, also exists.  Yet we don't live in the past or the future as much as we would sometimes like.  The now is all we really have.

The future is always unknown.  We do not know what the next second, day, or year will bring.  What we call spirituality is how we relate to the unknown.  It can scare, excite, confuse, or intimidate us.  Some of us rely on hope and faith to support us in facing the uncertain future.  We require a special form of competence to deal with the unknown. It consists primarily of the courage to sit with uncertainty.

Resisting can be useful or useless.  Competent people know when to say yes and when to say no.  This allows them to know when to act and when to wait, when to try new things and when to stick with the old.

No one has ever woken up saying, “I am going to mess up my day.”  We don't plan on making mistakes, forgetting to make the important telephone call, talking too long with a boring person, denting our car, having a horrible meal, losing our keys, or yelling at our children.  Most of us are doing the best we can, even when things don't work out as we had expected or hoped.

Even the best of us messes up often.  To turn against ourselves after we err is rarely useful.  A competent person knows that these things are ordinary, and that the next day will bring new mishaps.  And, every once in a while, we have a perfect day.

Nobody owns the truth.  There are many ways to look at things since we all see things differently.  A competent person is willing to talk to, and listen to other people who are different.

Power is neither good nor bad, nor does it exist solely within a person.  It exists between people, groups, and even nations.  At its core, power is a relationship – not an attribute. A powerful person, group, or nation is skilled at influencing and open to being influenced.   Some people are given power by their position, such as a parent or an employer, and they can use it for good or for ill.

Most of our relationships contain some form of hierarchy.  In nearly all relationships some have more knowledge, and some are put in charge of others as leaders.  Hierarchy needs to be acknowledged and respected.  The health of a hierarchical system, such as a family or nation, depends on the relational competence of those in the hierarchy.

We are always having impact, both good and bad, depending on how we present ourselves to others.  We call our self-presentation presence.  Becoming aware of our presence leads to acting with intention.  Whether we are modeling a behavior, bringing a missing aspect to the process, choosing to remain silent or joining with the group, we are always having an influence.

Some of us pay attention to thoughts first and others first to emotions.  To live well in the world we have to be able to attend to both.  A competent person is in touch with both thoughts and emotions and is able to think and feel before acting. 

Mature persons are those whose lives are filled with possibilities.  They are able to move towards things that have potential, to feel regret when things don't turn out as expected, and to move on, having learned from the experience.

And most important, growth and development come from our movement toward what is different from the way we are.